Better Than Anything

      Cyndi and I were in our kitchen Sunday evening eating nachos and talking about the music we should be practicing for our upcoming mission trip to Budapest. I was having trouble downloading one of the songs, Almost Like Being in Love. I knew we had a great arrangement and I wanted to listen to it, but for some reason my iTunes was pitching a fit.

      Cyndi, who was less interested in my computer problems (since she’s been having plenty of her own) than in the song, started humming, and asked, “Am I on the right tune?”

      “No, you’re singing Better Than Anything.”

      Mentioning that song was the trailhead down a path of favorite memories. We’re even more likely than usual to make that trip nowadays because this year is a big round number for us. Our 40th anniversary is in July.

Better than sailing at midnight
Better than diving for pearls
Better than skiing in Aspen
Better than feeding the squirrels
Better than finding a horseshoe
Better than losing your head
Better than anything thought of
Better than anything said
Better than singing right out loud
Or being spotted in a crowd
Better than anything except being in love


      We don’t have any songs that were ours when we were dating. We’ve claimed several since we married, but none from the early years. Better Than Anything comes close and would certainly qualify if it were easier to dance to. It was written by David Wheat and Bill Loughborough, and first recorded in 1963. But the version we fell in love with, fell in love over, was from an Al Jarreau album, Look To The Rainbow, from 1977.

Better than four sets of Dizzy
Better than Count Basie's band
Better than Rollins and Coltrane
Better than being on the stand
Better than Ella Fitzgerald
Better than Miles' latest news
Better than Bill Evans' ballads
Better than Joe Williams' blues
Better than hearing Lady Day
Or checking in at Monterey
Better than anything except being in love

      Of course, nothing goes undocumented, so even as we reminisced I posted the lyrics on my Facebook page. And music does so often, it pulled in someone else. Our friend Rabon told me that just seeing my post took him back to his sophomore dorm room.

      Music finds you; music slips through armored scales and straight into our heart. Rabon’s memory stirred up my own.

Better than Lucy and Desi
Better than Route 66
Better than Kildare and Casey
Better than Quiz shows all fixed
Better than Huntley and Brinkley and
Singing with Mitch
Better than Hitchcock and Karloff and
Flicking the switch
Better than movies late at night
Or watching Emile Griffith fight
Better than anything except being in love

      Here’s my story: I bought the Look To The Rainbow album when I was in college, after hearing Al Jarreau on The Tonight Show. When I came home after the 1978 spring semester at college, I Invited my friend and fellow musician, Rick, to come over and listen to it and dub it onto cassettes.

      It was a ruse. What I really wanted to do was distract myself. I had been home for only a week, but I was depressed (cratered, miserable, and gloomy) because the girl I planned to date all summer had, due to my own inattention, been dating a track-and-field jock. I was certain I’d blown the best chance I’d ever have. She’d found someone else.

      And then, I think it was a Monday evening, Rick came over. When I opened the door and saw Cyndi standing right beside him, everything changed. She had an armload of textbooks and planned to study for finals while we listened to music. I don’t know whose idea it was for them to come together; I didn’t care. I realized this was a new beginning. She came back. We’ve been together ever since.

      The gift of music; it’s better than anything except being in love.


P.S. Here is another version of the song, with Natalie Cole and Diana Krall.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32